1952 Topps Baseball Cards

52-TOPPS--MANTLEIn 1952, Topps took a giant leap forward from their 1951 Red & Blue Back series and produced a trading card masterpiece. Conceptualized by Sy Berger, who literally revolutionized the trading card industry, the 1952 Topps set is the gold standard of post-war collecting.

The 1952 Topps cards incorporate so many elements that collectors desire from a trading card. First, Topps showed that size does matter. Bowman’s 1948-1951 baseball cards were smaller in size and player quantity. Topps’ 52′ 407-card issue of 2 5/8″ by 3 3/4″ cardboard shattered the norms of what a baseball card issue should be.

The card design is perfect; the team logo is set on the edge of a marquee of gold stars surrounding the player’s name and facsimile signature which sits just below a stunning full-color player portrait.

The card backs were a boon to math nerds everywhere, providing current and lifetime player stats for eleven different categories along with biographical info.

Any discussion of the 1952 set inevitably focuses on card #311, Mickey Mantle. It should. The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle rookie is the most important and valuable trading card issued in the last hundred years. Just like the T206 Honus Wagner, the 52 Topps Mantle rookie is highly coveted in all grades, even in poor condition. In fact, we have bought and sold numerous poor condition 52 Mantles, the first in 1987, in a condition I can only describe with the term “elephant stomped.”

52-TOPPS-JACKIEMantle’s popularity with Baby Boomers almost single-handedly fueled the ascendancy of the trading card industry. Mantle’s rookie is the first card in the high-number series (the 6th series, card numbers 311 – 407).

The high numbers were released during the later part of baseball season and were greeted with ambivalence from collectors whose attention had shifted to other pursuits. Years later, Topps hired a barge to cart the leftover 52s and dump the remaining cards in the Atlantic Ocean. (Side note; if a time machine should be invented in the near-future, this is the first place I’m headed.)

Not only are the high numbers significantly rarer than the low numbers, they also possess amazing player content. Prominent high number cards include; #407, Eddie Mathews rookie card (the last card in the set), the first Topps cards of Jackie Robinson (#312), Bobby Thomson (#313), Roy Campanella (#314), Leo Durocher (#315) Pee Wee Reese (#333), Ewell Blackwell (#344) and Bill Dickey (#400). The highs also boast the rookies of Joe Black (#321), Gil McDougald (#372), Hoyt Wilhelm (#392), Dick Williams (#396) and Joe Nuxhall (#406).

52-TOPPS-MAYSWhile the highs are the bread and butter of the set, there are still a ton of other highlights. My personal favorite is card #261, the Willie Mays rookie (or more accurately, first Topps card). Like Mantle, Mays had a card issued in the 1951 Bowman set and just like Mantle, people prefer the 52 Topps by a large margin. The Mays rookie appears in the semi-high series (fifth series).

The first series cards (#1-80) are available with both red backs and black back varieties. Card #1, Andy Pafko, while not rare in the slightest, commands a huge premium in high grade. As the first card of the set, it tends to be subject to more handling and damage when stored. Unfortunately, some people think that low grade versions of this card are valuable. They are mistaken. The 1952 Pafko is referenced in the the terrible Bruce Willis movie Cop Out (sorry for the movie review).

The first series also contains the Joe Page/ Johnny Sain variations. Topps mistakenly printed the Page card with Sain’s back and vice versa before correcting their mistake. Phil Rizzuto, Duke Snider Gil Hodges, Warren Spahn, Robin Roberts and Monte Irvin round out the highlights of the first series of ’52 Topps.

Well over 60 years since its’ release, the 1952 Topps is still the most collected and desired set by baseball card buyers around the country.

If you have any 1952 Topps baseball cards to sell or any items on our baseball buy list, PLEASE CONTACT Mark Rubin at 914-725-2225 or via email at mark@amerlegends.com. A quick phone call is all it takes to get started.